Imbedded in a sweatband, a network of sensors devised by Ali Javey can monitor moment-by-moment changes in electrolytes and metabolites, a potential boon to weekend athletes, diabetics and people exposed to heavy metal concentrations.
UC Berkeley is known as No. 1 for producing serial entrepreneurs, and that fearless ethos doesn’t drive only our students. It also drives our faculty, says Amy Herr, the new faculty director of the Bakar Fellows Program.
Bakar Fellow Pieter Abbeel studies deep learning in robots. The robot BRETT (Berkeley Robot for Elimination of Tedious Tasks) has mastered a range of skills, including folding laundry, knot-tying, and basic assembly.
Laura Waller is working on computational imaging methods for quantitative phase microscopy, which enables one to map the shape and/or density of invisible samples in a non-invasive way. Her group is developing simple experimental architectures and efficient post-processing algorithms for phase recovery, applied in a variety of scientific and industrial settings.
John Dueber is working to employ metabolite protecting groups for a sustainable indigo dyeing process. The new technology has the potential to transform the Jeans (and related textile) dyeing industry into a "green business" using dye processes that would comply with modern regulations ensuring environmental safeguards.
Feng Wang is studying how electrical fields modulate the optical properties of a number of materials. The flip of a light switch – a nano-scale light switch – may some day dramatically boost the speed of data transmission, from streaming movies to accelerating the most data-intense computation.
Mary Wildermuth is developing plant breeding strategies that can weaken the effects of powdery mildew. If not controlled, powdery mildew is a fast spreading fungus that can cause billions of dollars of crop damage in California.
Felix Fischer and fellow researchers are fabricating strips of carbon only one-atom thick and less than 15 atoms wide, the aim is to create molecular-scale “wires” capable of carrying information thousands of times faster than is possible today.
Lydia Sohn is developing a new technique based on microtechnology to distinguish between different types of circulating tumor cells also known as CTC’s . She hopes this more sensitive approach will help clinicians learn which CTC’s are most prone to lead to metastasis.
Tanja Cuk is testing how to optimize new devices for both power delivery and energy storage. Her focus is an alternative to conventional batteries, called a “supercapacitor,” which could deliver more power than current batteries.
Ants normally distinguish friend from foe by detecting colony-specific molecules called pheromones that coat their bodies. Neil Tsutsui has identified the recognition pheromones and other chemical signals, and has shown in experiments that the ants’ behavior can be tweaked by exposing them to identical, environmentally harmless synthetic pheromones.
Michael Rape studies ubiqutins that form chains, “like pearls on a string,” he says. In 2008, his lab discovered a new member of this chain configuration and determined how an enzyme called Ube2S is able to assemble it inside cells. Without the Ube2S enzyme and the ubiquitin chain, he found, cells cannot divide. But with too much Ube2S – and too many ubiquitin chains – cell division runs out of control.
Lab tests that detect prostate cancer can’t reveal if the cancer poses a real risk. It looks for elevated levels of a protein called PSA, but about 80 percent of cancers that generate high PSA levels grow so slowly and may never need treatment. New research by Amy Herr points the way to a much more refined assessment of proteins and the promise of better diagnosis and treatment of a range of diseases.
It still sounds futuristic, but the time is approaching when people paralyzed by stroke or spinal cord injury will be able to regain the experience of movement. Neuroengineer Jose Carmena and bioengineer Michel Maharbiz have joined forces in a project supported by the Bakar Fellows Program to move this technology from the laboratory to the real world.